There's more to a landscape than an iconic vantage point
By William Neill
As for many others, Yosemite is a magical place to me. I see Yosemite as my most important teacher, as a place where I've felt so at home, at peace and energized by the special landscape. With a strong desire to create my own unique view of Yosemite, I've always found wondrous compositions everywhere I went, be it far from the road or while standing before the famous landmarks. This comfort level allowed me to take risks. My goal has been to make photographs that are beyond the ordinary and still create images with a sense of place, of Yosemite.
For most photographers who don't have a landscape like Yosemite as their backyard, any landscape that one really gets to know can serve as the photographer's strongest mentor. Knowing the weather, feeling the light, sensing that landscape's most expressive moments, learning the moods of each season are all vital factors to creating meaningful images.
The photograph shown here was made on my way to somewhere else, unplanned and unscheduled. It was made standing on the side of the road, with the road in between the ice-covered rock wall and me. Many years before, I had photographed icicles along this same area, so I was aware enough to glance in that direction as I was driving along this stretch of road.
I photographed using both my 4x5 and Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II and used my tripod most of the time. The image was made with the Canon camera. A friend who was with me also had his camera and 4x5 set up to photograph the ice. When we stopped on the side of the road, no one else was there. During those 30 minutes, I estimate that 20 to 30 vehicles either stopped to take a quick snapshot or slowed down to enjoy the icicles. A few more photographers with tripods also set up to photograph. Even before seeing the results of my efforts (let alone printing or publishing any images), I had succeeded in helping others see what the road passes by!
While a single image like this one is not obviously a Yosemite image, a collective group of intimate, creative photographs of Yosemite or any landscape, whether by myself or anyone else, can tell the viewers volumes about a place if we're truly seeing it through our own eyes. The lessons that a landscape can teach us are: to slow down, to look inward as well as outward, to look for light or image design in composing images that elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary and to trust our own vision of our world over someone else's. Enjoy the journey!
"I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found was really going in." —John Muir, Naturalist